Cooking and eating on the road can tend to be a lot about meat on the barbecue. Which is fine – it’s quick and easy when the weather’s hot and you are enjoying the great outdoors. Some steaks and snags, a salad or two and dinner is done.
But the humble barbie can become a bit monotonous and, let’s face it, meat is expensive. After a few weeks you can yearn for a home cooked dinner and if you’ve got fussy kids they’ll be scratching around for something different too.
Campervan and caravan cooking is not difficult if you plan ahead.
Packets of frozen vegies and tins of staples such corn, beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, beetroot and pineapple, jars of pasta sauce and the like are great to have on hand to incorporate into your daily meals.
Minced beef is very versatile, and I reckon it’s underrated. Buy a few kilos of the best you can afford when you’re next at the butcher or supermarket. Set aside a bit of time to do some planning and a big cook up and you can make the mince go a long way, especially when you’re out on the road travelling.
Here are some of my tried-and-true recipes that I use on the road, and at home as well. They are all very easy, most use only one pot or bowl, are pretty economical to whip up and – most importantly – taste good too.
1. Pasta Bolognese
Bolognese sauce is a no brainer in most households and with a few basic ingredients you can turn it into a host of different meals that the whole family will enjoy – and stretch your dollar further.
Use your go-to recipe and cook a big batch long and slow so it’s full of flavour. I use store bought jars of pasta sauce to add to my browned mince and add some onion, garlic, a bit of red wine, some seasoning and Italian herbs.
You can cook this in your van on the cooktop – I use our induction cooktop outside – or the camp kitchen. Even a cast iron pot on the fire so long as it’s not too hot.
Serve with your favourite pasta and some grated parmesan there’s one meal down.
2. Baked jacket potatoes
As it is, without any adjustments, you can use this base Bolognese sauce to pop on top of some potatoes baked in their jackets in foil in the open fire or the Weber with lashings of butter, sour cream, and grated cheese and chopped spring onions. Meal two down.
3. Chilli con carne
For meal number three, add some chilli flakes, some ground cumin and coriander and a tin of red kidney beans (adjust seasonings and spices to suit your own tastes) to your Bolognese sauce and you have instant chilli con carne.
Serve this in a bowl with toppings/sides of grated cheese, sour cream, mashed avocado, a tin of corn kernels, or black beans, perhaps some chopped tomatoes, and some coriander sprigs. Use corn chips as utensils to scoop up the Mexican deliciousness and pop it all in your mouth. The kids will love these burrito bowls. You could substitute corn chips for taco shells or wraps and make burritos.
4. Shepherd’s Pie
Your big batch of meat sauce might be getting a bit low at this stage so add some peas, corn, diced carrot (you can buy frozen bags containing all three) or whatever other vegies you like and place it in a casserole dish or individual ramekins or other suitable pot. Cook and mash some spuds to spread on top and you have Shepherd’s Pie. Meal four down. You might need an oven to heat these through and get the top of the potato nice and brown and crunchy – whether that’s your van, the camp kitchen at the caravan park or even your Weber/Ziggy. Or if your meat and potatoes are already hot, just pop it under the griller to get the top browned. My mum used to make patterns in the mashed potato with a fork and I still do it to this day.
While you’re using mince, whip up some burger patties so you can have homemade burgers on the road. They will freeze very well if you put some baking paper or similar between them. Brioche buns are a nice change if you can get them and with all the basic ingredients such as onion, cheese, tomato, lettuce (egg and bacon if you’re inclined), beetroot and pineapple if you’re a traditionalist and a good burger sauce which should be a staple in your van cupboard – you can’t go wrong. Meal five down.
Fritters are a great quick and easy meal if you don’t eat meat or if you’re tired of being a carnivore. My favourites are corn and zucchini and the recipe looks something like this:
- 310gm tin corn kernels, drained
- 2 small zucchini, grated
- 2 eggs
- 80ml milk
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- ½ tsp ground cumin
Cook the batter in 10cm round patties on low to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Serve garnished with avocado, sour cream, sweet chilli sauce and coriander sprigs. For a real fancy pants version, serve the fritters in a stack and top with a poached egg, grilled haloumi or some smoked salmon.
If you Google fritter recipes you will come up with hundreds of options – the combinations are endless.
7. Poke bowl
Years ago, I enjoyed a delicious salmon poke bowl at the Bright Brewery (it’s still on the menu) and I have tried to replicate it ever since. It sounds fancier than it is – you can basically put anything in a poke bowl – but it’s all about texture and flavour. They are perfect for those days when you don’t actually want to cook but are happy to just assemble dinner.
I use the microwave packets of pre-cooked rice or a combo of rice and quinoa or similar. Some smoked or hot smoked salmon, sliced avocado, julienned carrot and cucumber, pickled ginger, wasabi peas (for crunch and heat), perhaps some pepitas and a good dressing like a sriracha mayo or kewpie mayo (the sesame one).
Honestly, you can make up your own combinations of bits and pieces here with any combinations of proteins and vegetables depending on your family’s tastes, but they are super quick and easy, full of nutritious goodness and only a few bowls to wash up at the end of the night. It’s a winner at my place every time. That’s dinner seven down.
I fell in love with crepes in France and they are a staple in my house when I couldn’t be bothered or haven’t planned anything else. Whip up a big batch of batter and let it sit for 30 minutes. For the batter you’ll need eggs, flour, milk and butter.
- 1 cup plain flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- Butter or margarine, for frying
As with fritters, there are endless choices for crepe fillings available on the internet, including vegetarian. My go-to is ham and cheese crepes for main course and then later on we’ll have sweet crepes for dessert – Nutella is an easy and tasty filling or just a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. Served with ice cream and with some berries they are delicious, filling and easy on the pocket. Meal eight done.